Monday, June 30, 2008
Families of Missing Iranian Jews Petition Against Hizbullah Deal
The families of 12 missing Iranian Jews have petitioned against one clause of the exchange with Hizbullah: Israel's consent to provide information on four missing Iranian diplomats.
Among the various obligations Israel took upon itself in the agreement approved by the Cabinet on Sunday is to provide information on four Iranian diplomats who disappeared in June 1982. Israeli forces had just invaded Lebanon in the Peace for Galilee War, in order to put a stop to incessant Palestinian terrorist and rocket attacks against northern Israel. Christian anti-Palestinian forces - the Samir Jaja faction of a Lebanese-Christian militia - apparently captured the four Iranian diplomats, who have never been heard from since. Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, representing the families of the 12 missing Iranian Jews, filed suit in the Supreme Court Monday morning. The urgently-filed petition demands that Israel not provide information on the diplomats until reliable and detailed information is received about the missing Jews. The petition makes clear that the target is not the entire agreement with Hizbullah, but rather the clause regarding the information on the Iranian diplomats.
The families of the 12 Jews in question say their loved ones were arrested by Iranian security authorities in the 1990s as they sought to escape from Iran across the border with Pakistan. At least some of them are believed to still be in Iranian prison. The Iranians have never acknowledged the Jews' arrest, nor have they given any word on their status or whereabouts.
The petitioners argue that the government must honor the obligations imposed upon it by the Israeli High Court approximately two years ago to "push forward diligently, sparing no effort, to gain information about the [12 missing] Jews of Iran."
In addition to this Court-ordered obligation, Attorney Darshan-Leitner adds another consideration: "These individuals attempted to come to Israel at the encouragement and with the assistance of the Israeli government. It is therefore the responsibility of the Israeli government to do everything it can to gain reliable, specific information regarding their whereabouts in order to save them if we can, and give closure and end the suffering of the wives, children, fathers and mothers of those who were murdered by the Islamic Republic."
To do otherwise, the lawyer stated, means that the 12 Iranian Jews "have been abandoned. It is simply unthinkable that the State of Israel would convey information about the four Iranian diplomats without receiving in exchange information about the twelve missing Jews in Iran. Information about the diplomats is the last bargaining chip in Israel's hands toward acquiring information about the missing Jews in Iran. If we give it up with nothing in return, the possibility of knowing what happened to the twelve missing is totally dead."
"Saving the lives of these missing Jews, still being held in Iranian prisons after years of torture must be a central component of any deal with Hizbollah and Iran," she concluded.
Israel Law Center sources say that the information on the missing Iranian officials is being requested from Israel by Hizbullah's financial patrons in Iran.
Similar Suit Not Filed on Behalf of Ron Arad
The suit filed on behalf of the Iranian Jews raises the question of why the family of Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad does not do the same. Arad has been missing since his plane crashed over Lebanon in 1986, and is believed to have been last seen in Iran. Hizbullah claims that it has been unable to find information on Arad's whereabouts or fate. If any such information does exist, it would seem to be in Iran.
The release of Lebanese Druze murderer Samir Kuntar has been lamented as the loss of the last chance for information on Arad. No explanation has been offered as to why the same approach taken by the families of the 12 has not been taken by the Arad family.
A former major activist for Ron Arad said recently that he abandoned his efforts when the offer of $10 million for information on Arad produced absolutely nothing.
Hizbullah Deal Not Certain
Voice of Israel government radio reported this morning that after Hizbullah submits its reports on the steps it took to find out about Ron Arad, Israel will review them and will then decide if the exchange should actually be carried out.
Still missing and with no information on their whereabouts are Tzvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Zecharia Baumel - assumed to be in Syrian hands after they were captured in the Sultan Yaakub battle in June 1982, Guy Hever, who disappeared near the Syrian border in 1997, and Druze IDF soldier Majdi Halaby, who was last seen in the Golan Heights in May 1995. Their families have asked that the indirect negotiations that have recently begun with Syria take their sons into account.